Thursday, March 31, 2016

I love this place!

I usually say this multiple times a day to myself: I love this place!

I first set foot on the campus of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary on August 8, 2014. It was the day before new student orientation for my semester began. I had never even visited the campus before, but I knew that this was where I was supposed to be. I still can't explain it. When God called me to seminary, he didn't just call me to any seminary, he called me to Southeastern.

I love this place! I got choked up the first time I saw the steeple at Binkley chapel. I still get excited as I cross the crosswalk on South Avenue every day as I arrive at campus. I love this place.

I'm a higher education re-tread. I had (foolishly) dropped out of college in 2001, and went on into the workforce. I was 34 years old when I attended my first class at the College at Southeastern. The past few days I've been planning my next two semesters out. They'll be my last two semesters as a "College Student" as I will graduate with my B.A. in May of 2017. Two more semesters. Wow. It feels like I just got here. Thankfully, I have plenty more to learn from the faculty here, as I definitely plan to get my Master's of Divinity and hopefully do Doctoral work here as well.

There is so much to learn, and I love every minute of it. Oh, and I get to work here too. Isn't it amazing what God can do? It's March right now. It would have been March in 2014 when I would have been spending my lunch-break at work at my old job back in South Carolina taking long walks and praying...talking to God, asking for some way for me to be able to come here. There were times when I wasn't sure I'd be able to do it. I was in my mid-30's. Mid career at a good job in the IT industry working for a good company. Some people thought I was crazy for wanting to do this, but mostly everyone I know has been supportive, and I know I have lots of folks from my church back home, Ebenezer Baptist Church in Florence, SC praying for me.

I take school seriously. I work hard, and yet it doesn't feel like work. I love every minute of it.

I love this place!

I thank God every day that I get to be here...that I get to learn here, from this faculty. I love this place!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

We all bear God's image, yet we are all broken.

We all bear God's image, yet we are all broken.

All of us.

A Google search tells me that there are around 4,200 religions in the world today. There are two things that members of each and every one have in common: We all bear God's image, yet we are all broken. All of us, and that includes us Christians. We are just as broken as any, however we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (1 John 2:1)

I saw a post on social media the other day that bothered me, and it has stuck with me since. The person who posted wrote that when they looked at Islam, they saw an enemy physically and spiritually, and then closed the post by saying that "Islam must be conquered and those who wish to live must renounce Islam! It is time to put the shoe on the other foot and run them back to the sand!" That was like a punch in the gut to me. This person professes Christ.

That post made me think about the book of Jonah. One of the themes of Jonah is that God's love is not just limited to "us" but also available for "them". It is not just Jonah who is the recipient of God's compassion, but also the pagan sailors and Ninevites. Jonah is unhappy that God saved the Ninevites. However, the pagan sailors, the ship's captain and the king of Nineveh all showed concern that no human beings should perish.

In the great commission, Jesus commanded us to go and make disciples of all nations. Not to run them "back to the sand" or to kill them if they don't renounce their religion. Fellow Christians, I urge you: if you meet someone of another faith, try to build a relationship with them, and share Jesus with them. That's what they need. They don't need our hate.

We all bear God's image, yet we are all broken. Members of every religion, as well as agnostics, and atheists are God's image bearers, and all deserve to know Jesus.  Will you show them love? Will you share the good news of Jesus Christ with them?
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:7-21)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Five Reasons I Am Thankful for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Last year my friend Spence Spencer shared a post about why he is thankful for Southeastern. Although he is still working to complete his PhD from Southeastern he has moved to Oklahoma to take an administrative position at OBU. He re-shared his post this morning stating that even though he is in Oklahoma he is still thankful for SEBTS. At the risk of being a copy-cat, I wanted to share the many reasons I am also thankful for Southeastern.

It is hard to believe that it has only been a little over a year since I first arrived at Southeastern Seminary. I never came for a preview day, I never went on a campus tour. I never set foot on this campus until I came to get my key for the little room I stayed in my first semester. I knew, however that this is where I was supposed to be.

It was only a little longer ago than that -- I guess sometime around the end of 2013 when I looked across the table at Hardee's one morning when I was eating breakfast with my pastor and asked him if he thought it would be crazy if I said I wanted to move to NC and attend Southeastern (he said no, it wouldn't by the way). Almost exactly one year ago I decided to put my house in SC on the market and move all of my belongings to an actual apartment here in Wake Forest. It was a little less than a year ago I left the job I'd had for the previous 8 years, as they did not have a full-time remote position for me. As a result of that, the Christmas season of last year (2014) is a blur for me -- it was a period of worry, uncertainty, doubt and a lot of prayer. The more I prayed however, the more I knew I had made the right decision. Soon I was offered a job in IT at Southeastern. That is just one of the many ways this school and the people here have blessed me.

So, here are five reasons I am thankful for Southeastern Seminary:

I am thankful for my job, and the fact that I can serve the faculty, staff and fellow students by working at Southeastern. Since starting in IT I have also been able to begin working with the communications team as the editor for the Between the Times faculty blog. I love both roles immensely.  I have never worked in a better environment. As Spence wrote in his post, I have never received more "Thank You" e-mails and comments than I have while working at Southeastern. This is a workplace where people are genuinely kind.

I am thankful for all of the friends I have made here. I'm thankful for my classmates, my co-workers and I am thankful for my neighbors. Southeastern is such a fantastic community. Southeastern lives up to it's moniker "The Happy Seminary."

I am thankful for the professors here. I started to say the professors I've taken classes with, but it really goes beyond that. Southeastern's faculty is so great. I haven't just learned from professors whose classes I have taken. I have had the opportunity to interact with professors outside of the classroom as well. I try to be a sponge and take any opportunity I can to learn from everyone I can.

I am thankful that Southeastern has instilled in me an even greater love for learning, a love for research, a love for writing, and a love for taking what I learn and making it not simply an academic exercise but always emphasizing the need to turn academic study into practical application.

Although this is the season of thanksgiving, I am thankful for this place every day. I do my best to make sure not a day goes by that I do not stop and thank God for putting me here. I am blessed beyond words by being here. I love this place.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Doug Moo on Romans 13:1-7

I have had Romans 13:1-7 on my mind lately:
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

In studying this passage, I have consulted several commentaries, and I really appreciate what Doug Moo has written about this passage: "In demanding 'submission' to the state, Paul is not necessarily demanding obedience to every mandate of the state. Key to this restriction is the recognition that the word 'submit' (hypotasso) in Paul is not a simple equivalent to 'obey' (hypakouo)...[S]ubmission is broader and more basic than obedience. To submit is to recognize one's subordinate place in a hierarchy established by God. It is to acknowledge that certain institutions or people have been placed over us and have the right to our respect and deference. In addition to rulers (see also Titus 3:1), Paul also calls on believers to submit to their spiritual leaders (1 Cor. 16:16) and even to one another (Eph. 5:21-6:9) person is to recognize the rightful leadership role that another human being has in his or her life...[I]t seems to me, we can also, as believers, continue to submit to governing authorities even as, in certain specific instances, we find that we cannot obey them. When they order us to do something incompatible with our allegiance to God, our higher authority, we must, as Peter and John put it, 'obey God rather than men' (Acts 5:29)."

Dr. Moo then goes on to add: "One final word on this issue, however, must respect the intention of this passage. Clearly, it does not intend to encourage disobedience. It warns us agains the danger of ignoring the rightful place government has in God's ordering of the world according to his purposes. Government--and each individual state and ruler--is appointed by God. Christians seeking to do God's will, therefore, recognize the right of the governing authorities to command them to do things, and they should, as much as possible, do what the government says."

And finally: "The debate will no doubt continue; what will be be important is that believers seek to establish what they believe on the basis of all Scripture, not just isolated texts (emphasis mine)."

Monday, August 31, 2015

The NIV Zondervan Study Bible: A Review

I have more than a few Study Bibles. Looking over at my bookshelf I see the following:

  • ESV Study Bible
  • HCSB Study Bible
  • NIV Study Bible (The older one from 2008)
  • New Geneva Study Bible (which later became the Reformation Study Bible)
  • Life Application Study Bible
  • TNIV Study Bible
  • The New Oxford Annotated Bible

Moreover, in addition to these, I have electronic copies of the ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible, the ESV Global Study Bible and the MacArthur Study Bible.

Even with all of these wonderful Study Bibles on my shelf I have been eagerly anticipating this new NIV Zondervan Study Bible from the time I first heard about it back in February on Andy Naselli's blog.

A fantastic and diverse team of scholars came together to produce this wonderful resource. D. A. Carson serves as general editor, Desi Alexander, Rick Hess and Doug Moo are the associate editors, and Andy Naselli is the assistant editor.

Listen as D. A. Carson gives an overview of this new Study Bible in the following video:

This study Bible is not merely an update of the old NIV Study Bible (which will stay in print), but has completely fresh content from more than 60 of the worlds finest Biblical scholars. Not only did D. A. Carson serve as general editor, he contributed the notes (co-authored by Andy Naselli) for John, and in addition to serving as associate editor, Doug Moo provided notes for Romans, James, 2 Peter and Jude (2 Peter and Jude co-authored again by Andy Naselli). Great essays have been provided by Jim Hamilton, Kevin DeYoung, Sam Storms, Moisés Silva, Tim Keller and Andreas Köstenberger (just to name a few). A full list of contributors can be found here, and here is a video giving an overview of the team of scholars behind this new study Bible:

Why another Study Bible? 

All of the study Bibles I listed above are outstanding resources. I use them each often. They each bring something unique to the table, and the NIV Zondervan Study Bible is no exception. While many study Bibles focus on Systematic Theology (The ESV Study Bible being an excellent example of a study Bible in this format), the NIV Zondervan Study Bible focuses on Biblical Theology.

Here is a brief video explaining the Biblical Theology approach:

At 2,880 pages and nearly 5 pounds this Bible is an impressive and comprehensive work. There are countless maps, charts, illustrations and photos which bring the world of the Bible into your hands. Together with the other faithful study Bibles on the market, the church is blessed with resources that provide a wealth of knowledge and insight. Also, be sure to check out this page for plenty of resources and samples.

Finally, I know some readers of my blog might not prefer the NIV translation. In fact, some people might intensely dislike the NIV. However, I think we should stop and thank God that we have so many faithful translations of the Bible in our native English language. Just like with study Bibles, each faithful translation of the Biblical text brings something unique to the table. To faithfully exegete a text, several translations should always be consulted (especially if one is not proficient in the source languages). Good Bible translations are helpful resources. It's both-and, not either-or. Along with the KJV, NASB, ESV, and HCSB, the 2011 NIV is a translation I have read from Genesis to Revelation. My only real quibble is "assume authority" in 1 Timothy 2:12, but I have heard and read Doug Moo's explanation of that translation and I respect his view (and he is an complementarian). My thinline NIV is one that regularly makes its way into my backpack. I read from many translations regularly, and I tend to rotate the Bible I carry with me to classes, often to have a different translation than what my professor might be reading from aloud.

This is a fantastic resource that will serve any believer well no matter your preferred translation. I heartily recommend this study Bible to any Christian, and I am thankful for all of the contributors who made this study Bible a reality.

Note: I was provided a copy of the NIV Zondervan Study Bible free of charge for review purposes with no expectation of a favorable review. The opinions expressed above are my own.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

More than One Option: The Importance of Considering an Old Earth

The following partially satisfies the requirements for Dr. Benjamin Quinn's Christian Theology I class at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

More than One Option: The Importance of Considering an Old Earth


For many Christians, the idea that the earth may be 4.54 billion years old, or that the universe is about 13.73 billion years old is a frightening notion. Many Christians have been taught their entire lives that the Bible teaches that the earth is approximately 6,000 years old, and to believe otherwise is unbiblical. Many Christian leaders have taught that there are two options: a young earth or atheism.

What will follow is a survey of current popular theories of creation. It will be shown that the view of an old earth is a scripturally sound option for evangelicals. Some of the ways that advocates of a young earth explain what is learned from science will be investigated, and the importance of natural revelation in understanding creationism will be considered. Next, some of the hermeneutical approaches that advocates of an old earth use to interpret the Biblical account of creation will be reviewed. Finally, and most importantly, it will be shown why it is critical for leaders in the local churches and Christian schools to be informed and willing to discuss and teach views other than Young Earth Creationism, even if they do not adhere to those views themselves.

Four Major Approaches to Creationism

There are four major approaches to the Biblical creation account represented in the evangelical Christian community today. The first, and likely most well known, is Young Earth Creationism (YEC). YEC teaches a literal account of six, twenty-four hour days in which God created the universe, approximately 6000 years ago.[1] Next is Old Earth Creationism (OEC). Those who hold to OEC accept scientific evidence of an ancient universe, and the big bang theory, but do not accept Darwinian evolution. Proponents of OEC hold to the belief that God created the universe in stages over a period of billions of years. There are various subcategories of OEC, which vary primarily in the hermeneutical approach to the meaning of the days in the Genesis creation account, but all agree that God miraculously created Adam and Eve 60 to 100 thousand years ago.[2] Next, those who hold to Evolutionary Creationism adhere not only to scientific evidence of an ancient universe, but also accept Darwinian evolution, meaning they believe that all life, including humans descended from a common ancestor. As a result of this, most who adhere to EC do not believe Adam and Eve to be literal persons. There are, however some more conservative thinkers in the EC movement that would affirm a historical Adam and Eve, but argue they were hominids that were selected by God to let them be the federal headship of the human race.[3] The fourth, and final group is the Intelligent Design (ID) movement. According to Ken Keathley, “ID proponents argue that an objective examination of the scientific evidence alone (without an appeal to the Genesis account) will lead an unbiased inquirer to the conclusion that design by an Intelligent Being (i.e., God) makes an inference to the best explanation.”[4] Moreover, ID advocates feel that the arguments around the age of the earth distract from the bigger discussion, and as a result one can find both YEC and OEC advocates within the ID movement.[5]

Young Earth Creationism and Science

One of the biggest challenges for those who adhere to a young earth is how to reconcile science to the Biblical account of creation. In some cases, an all out dismissal of scientific orthodoxy may take place. One example of someone who has a background in science yet still holds to a YEC position is Paul Garner. One of the ways in which Garner explains how what is observed in science (specifically in geology) can be reconciled to the YEC view of Genesis 1 and 2, is through the effects of the global flood. Garner’s theory is that the flood came about as a result of extreme plate tectonics. He believes in an original single continent, and he feels that it is possible that a catastrophic event—such as a comet or asteroid hitting the earth—could have set the plates in motion. This extreme continental drift along with other intense geologic activities would have caused the global flood, and also would explain how aquatic fossil deposits and oceanic sediment have been found very far inland.[6]

On the other hand, some who adhere to a young earth may reject scientific orthodoxy and interpret what science understands through the lens of a 6000 year old creation. Some believe that although the earth and the universe have the appearance of being very old, it is in fact all an illusion. In their view, God created the universe with the appearance of age. The earth, they say, was created with fossil records, sediment deposits and fossil fuels already intact and ready to be discovered. There are heavenly bodies that are so far away it would take thousands or millions of years for light to reach earth. They really are far away, but according to the appearance of age theory, the light has been visible from earth since the very beginning as God created shafts of light to earth.

Yet another theory is that the speed of light has decayed over time, and there are others who interpret Einstein’s theory of relativity in such a way that in an “ordinary day as measured on earth, billions of years worth of physical processes take place in the distant cosmos.”[7] William Dembski feels that each of these approaches is problematic. In regards to the appearance of age theory, he commends the approach as not being a flat contradiction, as “God in his omnipotence could presumably have done things that way.”[8] However, a world created with a fictitious history lends itself to what could be interpreted as a divine hoax—trickery unworthy of a holy God. Dembski goes on to explain: “if human astronomers see what appears to be a supernova exploding in a galaxy millions of light-years away, [that] approach means that no supernova ever exploded.”[9] This would mean that astronomy is not about seeing real stars and real events but rather seeing an illusion created by God. On this topic Hugh Ross writes, “God’s character must be kept in mind when developing a view on creation’s timing…[for] created things to show a deceptive appearance of age would violate God’s own stated character and purpose.”[10] It is important to have a high view of Scripture, but at the same time it is equally important to consider how God has revealed himself in the natural world.

God uses both Scripture and natural revelation to reveal his character and other truths. As the psalmist writes, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork (Psalm 19:1 [ESV]).” One must not forget that both Luther and Calvin considered Copernicus to be a heretic. Not many within orthodox Christianity today would hold to a geocentric view of the universe, even though that is perhaps the most literal reading of some passages of Scripture.[11] It is right to believe, for example that the sun and moon stood still in Joshua 10, however it is not right to hold a geocentric view as a result. There are some things one has to accept as fact, through faith in God’s ultimate omnipotent power.

Old Earth Creationism and Scripture

If it can be said that those who adhere to YEC could have trouble reconciling science to the Biblical account of creation, it could also be said that those who adhere to OEC could have trouble explaining the Biblical account while still adhering to a doctrine of inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture. There are five different theories within those who adhere to OEC, and each of these primarily differ based on hermeneutics: Gap Theory, Day-Age Theory, Framework Theory, Temple Inauguration Theory, and the Historical Creationism Theory.[12]

Old Testament scholar John Sailhamer presents a most unique interpretation: Historical Creationism. Sailhamer states that his goal is to “understand the meaning of Genesis 1 and 2 as its original author intended it.”[13] Sailhamer looks at the Hebrew word reshit which is commonly translated as “beginning” in English translations, and emphasizes that the word has a very specific sense in scripture and “always refers to an extended, yet indeterminate duration of time—not a specific moment.”[14] Like the gap theorists, Sailhamer feels that there is no reason why “the beginning” could not have contained billions of years. Sailhamer also explores the meaning behind the Hebrew word eretz, as the “usual meaning for eretz is simply ‘the land’ and not ‘the earth’ as in most English translations.”[15] Therefore, Sailhamer associates this term with the Promised Land rather than the planet earth. In sum, the lengths to which Sailhamer explores the underlying text is commendable as is his understanding of the significance of the Promised Land as a critical part of God’s covenant with Abraham.

Another interesting theory for an old earth is the Framework Theory. Mark Ross calls the framework hypothesis “a view of Genesis 1:1-2:3 which claims that the Bible’s use of the seven-day week in it’s narration of the creation is a literary (theological) framework and is not intended to indicate the chronology or duration of the acts of creation.”[16] Thus, the literary framework does not focus on presenting a chronological sequential representation of the days of creation, but rather focuses on presenting a non-sequential topical representation. According to Keathley, there is a possibility that this approach “enables the reader to appreciate the real theological message of the passage.”[17] The framework is organized like this: days one, two and three are days of forming, and days four, five and six are days of filling, therefore creating a parallel construction.[18] In the sense in which it is used in Genesis 2:2, the Hebrew verb shavath means that God ceased His creative activity on the seventh day. God did not simply rest for 24 hours; God rested from his creative activities and that rest remains.[19] Although there is symmetry exhibited in the framework presented, the most natural reading of the text is a literal, chronological understanding of the events Moses writes about.

These are summations of just two of the OEC views, but all of the old earth theories are based on the Bible being the inerrant word of God, and the scientific evidence in nature being an accurate revelation from God. They all show that both the Bible and nature can agree. There are many things not specifically revealed in the Bible such as dinosaurs, other planets, or other galaxies. The Bible is selective in its account of God’s creative activities, yet reveals with absolute certainty what is most important about creation; God spoke, and all that was not God came into being.

Young Earth, Old Earth and Apologetics: Why does this Matter?

It is imperative for the leaders of local congregations, and administrators of Christian schools to understand and be able to speak to each view of creationism. It is also important for these same leaders to emphasize that these debates and theories are secondary to the Gospel. Much confusion has come from prominent leaders, some who have even written books with inaccurate, incomplete information about views other than YEC. There are some who misrepresent OEC to their audience as though it goes against the Gospel.[20] There are four things that should always be non-negotiable: God as creator, The Fall, Christ as Redeemer, and Christ’s return to establish the new heaven and new earth. Any theory considered should agree with those four and be in agreement with Scripture.

Take for example a young Christian who goes off to college, and for the first time deeply studies geology, physics, and biology. They may now have a great internal schism between their knowledge of spiritual things and their newfound scientific understanding. Unless they have been prepared, they may find that the scientific evidence is too great and may now view the Bible as a flawed book. They may suddenly sense that they have been mislead about creation and begin to doubt their faith. Not only have they only been taught one side of the creation debate, they have not been trained on how to handle their faith being challenged.

Therefore, it is vitally important for views other than YEC to be taught as viable options in a non-biased, well-rounded manner—something that is not commonly done in churches or Christian schools today. By equipping people—young and old—with knowledge, they are better equipped to approach Scripture prayerfully and form their own conclusions. They will also be better able to defend their own beliefs when others challenge them. Even if one does not hold to an old earth view, it is helpful in apologetic discussions and even personal evangelism to be able to answer questions about God’s creation when talking to un-churched lost people. In a secondary matter such as this, it is important to be able to respectfully consider biblically sound positions other than what one holds to personally.

The OEC position is in harmony with both Scripture and God’s natural revelation. While there are many good arguments for YEC, and many people have developed scientific theories based on observing the world around us, the OEC view stands firm as being consistently aligned with all of God’s revelation. In closing, there are two statements that no one can deny no matter what position he or she holds: The universe appears to be very old, and the universe appears to be very well designed.

[1] The leading representative group for YEC is the organization Answers in Genesis and more info is available on their website:
[2] The leading representative group for OEC is the organization Reasons to Believe, and more information is available on their website:
[3] The leading representative group for EC is the organization BioLogos, and more information is available on their website:
[4] Kenneth Keathley and Mark Rooker, 40 Questions and Answers about Creation and Evolution, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2014), 16-17.
[5] The leading representative group for ID is the Discovery Institute, and more info is available on their website:
[6] Much more information on this topic and other related topics is found in Paul Garner’s book, The New Creationism: Building Scientific Theories on a Biblical Foundation (Evangelical Press, 2009), specifically chapters 13-15. There is much more to his theories than extreme plate tectonics, but space limits discussion of these.
[7] D. Russell Humphreys, Starlight and Time: Solving the Puzzle of Distant Starlight in a Young Universe (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 1994), 37.
[8] William Dembski, The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2009), 66.
[9] Ibid., 67.
[10] Hugh Ross, A Matter of Days: Resolving a Creation Controversy, 1st Edition, (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2004), 86
[11] See Joshua 10:12-14.
[12] There is not space to elaborate on each of these so only a couple will be highlighted, but chapters 11-15 in 40 Questions and Answers about Creation and Evolution by Keathley and Rooker cover each of these in great depth and detail.
[13] John Sailhamer, Genesis Unbound: A Provocative New Look at the Creation Account 2nd Edition (Colorado Springs: Dawson Media, 2011), Location 260 of 3348 Kindle.
[14] Ibid., Location 260.
[15] Sailhamer, Genesis Unbound, Location 505.
[16] Mark Ross, “The Framework Hypothesis: An Interpretation of Genesis 1:1-2:3,” in Did God Create in Six Days? Ed. Joseph A. Pipa, Jr. and David W. Hall (Taylors, S.C.: Southern Presbyterian Press, 1999), 113.
[17] Keathley, 40 Questions and Answers, 127
[18] See Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Raids: Zondervan, 1994), 300-304
[19] See Psalm 95 and Hebrews 4
[20] For example, see the discussion in Chapter 2 of John MacArthur, The Battle for Beginning, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005).


Brand, Chad Owen "The Work of God: Creation and Providence" in A Theology for the Church. Edited by Daniel L. Akin, 67-101 Nashville: B&H Academic, 2007.

Dembski, William. The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World. Nashville, Tenn. : Milton Keynes, U.K: B&H Academic, 2009.

DeYoung, Donald. Thousands Not Billions: Challenging the Icon of Evolution, Questioning the Age of the Earth. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2005.

Garner, Paul, The New Creationism: Building Scientific Theory on a Biblical Foundation. Faverdale North, Darlington, England; Webster, N.Y.: Evangelical Press, 2009.

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.

Humphreys, D. Russell. Starlight & Time. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 1994.
Jordan, James B. Creation in Six Days: A Defense of the Traditional Reading of Genesis One. Moscow, Idaho: Canon Press, 1999.

Keathley, Kenneth, and Mark Rooker. 40 Questions About Creation and Evolution. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2014.

Luther, Martin Luther’s Works. Vol 1. Lectures on Genesis. ed. Jaroslav Pelikan St. Louis: Concordia, 1958.

MacArthur, John F. The Battle for the Beginning. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005.

Morris, Henry M., and John D. Morris. Science, Scripture, and the Young Earth: An Answer to Current Arguments Against the Biblical Doctrine of Recent Creation. El Cajon, Calif: Institute for Creation Research, 1985.

Mortensen, Terry. 2007. "Jesus, evangelical scholars, and the age of the earth." Master's Seminary Journal 18, no. 1: 69-98. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed April 10, 2015).

Roberts, Michael. Evangelicals and Science. Annotated edition. Westport: Greenwood, 2008.

Ross, Mark “The Framework Hyphothesis: An Interpretation of Genesis 1:1-2:3,” in Did God Create in 6 Days? ed. Joseph A. Pipa, Jr and David W. Hall. Taylors, S.C.: Southern Presbyterian Press, 1999.

Ross, Hugh. A Matter of Days: Resolving a Creation Controversy. 1st edition. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2004.

Ross, Hugh. The Creator and the Cosmos: How the Greatest Scientific Discoveries of the Century Reveal God. Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1995.

Sailhamer, John H. Genesis Unbound: A Provocative New Look at the Creation Account. 2nd edition. Colorado Springs: Dawson Media, 2011. Kindle

Schroeder, Gerald. Genesis and the Big Bang: The Discovery Of Harmony Between Modern Science And The Bible. Reprint edition. New York: Bantam, 1991.

Young, Davis A. Christianity and the Age of the Earth. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982.

———. John Calvin and the Natural World Lanham, MD: University Press, 2007

Young, Davis A., and Ralph F. Stearley. The Bible, Rocks and Time: Geological Evidence for the Age of the Earth. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2008.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Book Review: Who Chose the Gospels? Probing the Great Gospel Conspiracy.

The following partially satisfies the requirements for Dr. Grant Taylor's New Testament Survey class at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Who Chose the Gospels? Probing the Great Gospel Conspiracy.
Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2010. 295 pp. Reviewed by Jayson L. Rowe.

Dr. Charles E. Hill received his Ph.D. from Cambridge University and is currently Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Dr. Hill has extensive research interests in the Johannine Corpus, and has written extensively on several issues relating to the early church fathers, early Christian views on the end times, the canon of the New Testament, and the traditions of New Testament manuscripts. In addition to the work being reviewed here, he is the author of several books on the New Testament and Early Church including Regnum Caelorum: Patterns of Future Hope in Early Christianity, The Johannine Corpus in the Early Church and most recently The Early Text of the New Testament published in 2012 and co-edited with fellow RTS professor Michael J. Kruger.

In this work Hill presents his perspective on how and when the four-Gospel collection in the New Testament canon was formed. He writes in response to those who say the fourfold Gospel that became the canonical standard was only accepted as such at a later date. Moreover, these same scholars claim that the four canonical Gospels were simply four out of many Gospel accounts that were circulating during the time of the early church. Hill critically examines the scholarship that has been used to support and promote the popular narrative of how the church ended up with only four Gospels and also looks at the evidence more liberal scholars use to make their cases. Hill tests the major arguments from these scholars against the physical and historical evidence and also examines the writings of Irenaus, Clement of Rome, Papias and other historical figures to see how the Gospels were viewed in their day. Ultimately, Hill will be seeking the answer to the question: ‘Who chose the Gospels?’

In the introduction, Hill begins by quoting William Petersen, who claims that there was a “sea of multiple Gospels,” and also said that these “gospels were breeding like rabbits” (Hill, Who Chose the Gospels, p. 2). At the beginning of Chapter 1, Hill shows that Petersen was exaggerating a bit when he portrayed the number of Gospels, by showing that Petersen’s own research shows that the list of Gospels includes just nine other Gospels which might have sought to compete with the four (Hill, p. 7).

Next, Hill gives a detailed explanation of the papyrus discoveries and explains that the statistics of these discoveries are impartial. He points out how writers of the period could be accused of skewing numbers in favor of the four canonical Gospels, but shows that by looking at the random and impartial numbers of the papyri discoveries, it is clear that the canonical Gospels still outnumbered the non-canonical ones by about three to one (Hill, p. 21). Hill also explains that many of these discoveries are in Alexandria, in Egypt, which at the time was an area where many heretical forms of Christianity dominated. If there were any place where one would expect to find a high concentration of heterodox or non-canonical texts it would be Egypt. Remarkably, this is not the case and Hill shows that the non-canonical Gospels were still around a third as popular as the four canonical Gospels (Hill, pp. 24-25).

Hill then explains how Christians adopted the much less common codex for sacred writings very early on, and explains that all of the earliest known copies of the four canonical Gospels are found in codex form (Hill, p. 26). In addition, Hill demonstrates that out of the non-canonical Gospels found in codex form, they are all smaller, more compact codices while “most of the early papyrus copies of the canonical Gospels are from codices which were suitable for the purpose of public reading in churches, none of our surviving copies of the Gospel of Peter or the Gospel of Mary was” (Hill, p. 31).

Chapters 2 and 3 are devoted to defending Irenaeus. Hill’s argument is that, “by the time Irenaeus wrote around 180 AD, the fourfold Gospel was very well established” (Hill, p. 37). Hill contends that Irenaeus was not a pioneer of Gospel selection, but was simply following a tradition that had already been established since other writers of the second and third centuries, such as Hippolytus, Dionysius, Tertullian and others, also viewed only the four canonical Gospels as authoritative Scripture. Hill points out that a popular view with modern scholars is that “like an axe-happy frontiersman of bygone days, blind to ecological realities, Irenaeus destroyed a perfectly good stand of gospel trees in order to create his four-Gospel canon” (Hill, p. 42). In response to allegations that Irenaeus instructed Christians to destroy copies of the other Gospels, Hill asserts that neither Irenaeus’s church in Lyons nor the church in Rome “had anything resembling the kind of imperial power…to search out private copies of a detested book, seize them and destroy them” (Hill, p. 62).

Chapter 4 begins by stating, “if a four-Gospel canon was Irenaeus’s idea…it was an idea which caught on quickly” (Hill, p. 69). The use of the canonical Gospels is compared to the non-canonical Gospels in the writings of Clement of Alexandria. Hill reports that of the canonical Gospels, Clement refers to Matthew 757 times, Luke 402 times, John 331 times and Mark 182 times. The most referenced non-canonical Gospel is the Gospel of the Egyptians, which is only referenced 8 times. Referenced 3 times each are the Gospel to the Hebrews and the Traditions of Matthias. Furthermore, in the writings of Clement, there are no references to the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Peter, the Egerton Gospel, the Gospel of Judas, or the Gospel of Mary. Also, in the early to mid 190s, Clement refers to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as ‘the four Gospels that have been handed down to us’ in his treatise entitled Stromateis. The point made here is that by referring to only these four Gospels as being ‘handed down’ Clement sounds very much like Irenaeus who also spoke of the Gospels as being handed down from the apostles (Hill, pp. 72-73).

Next is a discussion of the writings of Serapion, the bishop of Antioch who had to deal with an issue regarding the Gospel of Peter. The congregation in Rhossus requested permission to read this Gospel in the church. At first, Serapion granted permission, but changed his mind after reading the work himself and seeing the heretical content it contained. Hill draws four conclusions from Serapion’s reaction to this work. First, Serapion knew of a category of books that were “received by tradition”, and the Gospel of Peter was not among them. Second, Serapion knew there had been books falsely attributed to the apostles of Jesus. Third, Serapion placed a high value on apostolic authority, and fourth, Serapion believes that apostolic authority belongs to certain books, which either the apostles wrote or had apostolic approval to be passed down (Hill, p.89).

Chapter 5 looks at three different ways of packaging the Gospels: harmonies, synopses and codices, explaining that works such as these would have shared the same aim of aiding Christian teachers who needed easier access to the Scriptures. These were not intended to be a single replacement of the four-Gospel canon, but were written to aid Christian teachers and are actually an indication of the authority of the four as Scripture.

Chapter 6 deals with the work of Justin Martyr and examines Justin’s references to the ‘Memoirs of the Apostles’, which are books that Justin knows as ‘Gospels’. It is pointed out, however, that many have observed that in Justin’s quotations of Jesus that they often are not reflective of a single one of the fourfold Gospels but rather look more like a harmonized version. Hill writes, “while it is evident that Justin…sometimes blended together or harmonized Jesus’s words, his ultimate authoritative source was what lay at the back of them” (Hill, p. 131). Hill also notes that in one place, Justin says ‘For the apostles, in the memoirs which have come about by their agency, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us’ and in another place Justin writes that the Gospels were composed by ‘Jesus’s apostles and their followers.’ Both of these statements lead to the conclusion that the Gospels which Justin is referring to, contain “at least two written by apostles and at least two by followers of apostles” (Hill, p.132). Hill resolves from the hints left behind by Justin in his work that the evidence likely proves that Justin had knowledge of the fourfold set of canonical Gospels, and that he regarded only these for as Scripture.

Chapter 7 looks at how early opponents of a proto-orthodox Christianity viewed the gospels. Hill looks at sources from Trypho, The Emperor and Senate, Crescens, and Celcus who according to Hill, Justin recruited “from the ranks of unbelievers” (Hill, p. 152). It is shown how Celcus, for example “was responding directly to the challenges posed in the writings of Justin” in his treatise against Christianity, True Logos, which was written sometime between 160 and 180 (Hill, p. 155). Hill writes that although it is not known for sure if Celsus “knew a definite fourfold Gospel collection…his use of the four Gospels in his broadside against Christianity is apparent” (Hill, p. 156-157). Therefore, even Celsus, an outsider to Christianity, regarded the fourfold Gospel as authentic Christian writings.
Chapter 8 examines other early sources such as The Apocryphon of James, The Epistle of the Apostles, The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, and the writings of Marcion and Aristides. Hill argues that these early texts indicate the influence of the four-Gospel collection from both within and outside of the church (Hill, p. 182). In Chapter 9, Hill deals with the Epistle to Dognetus, the so-called Letter of Barnabas, writings of Polycarp and Ignatius, The Didache, and writings of Clement of Rome. In each of these cases, Hill notes that each one “knew of at least one of the four Gospels” (Hill, p. 203) Hill states that ultimately, the last word on the matter “is found…in the collective, public teaching of Jesus’ authorized apostles, who received this authority from Jesus to pass on to the church” (Hill, p. 206)

Chapter 10 focuses on Papias, the bishop of Hierapolis around A.D. 120. Hill shows that Papias “knew all four of our Gospels, for there are sound reasons for acknowledging his use of them in the fragments of his writings that have survived. This would make Papias the earliest first-hand source for a recognition of all for Gospels” (Hill, p. 222). Hill argues that Papias followed an earlier tradition and concludes that one cannot be sure how early this tradition goes, “but a reasonable assumption is that the information he derived from ‘the elder’ was learned sometime around the year 100 and in any case not many years thereafter” (Hill, pp.222-223).

The final chapter finally tackles the question posed in the title of the book: Who chose the Gospels? Hill writes, “In short, we have no evidence that the church ever sat down collectively or as individual churches and composed criteria for judging which Gospels (or other literature) it thought best suited its needs” (Hill, p. 231). Thus, the Scriptures proved themselves authoritative simply by being handed down from apostolic sources and by their unity in content and the message they delivered.
Hill did an excellent job of laying a solid foundation to help the reader understand various aspects of textual criticism. The information given about the papyrus discoveries, as well as the numbering system used to identify various papyri was helpful. It was also beneficial to see how the papyri discoveries do not support the claims that are being made by some scholars. The section that explains how Alexandria, which was an area where Gnostic Christianity was quite widespread, still had a higher ratio of discoveries supporting the popularity of the canonical fourfold Gospel collection was very supportive of his argument.

In Chapter 5, Hill builds on the information learned in the first chapter by explaining how the codex possibly became more popular than the scroll because of the ability to bind all four Gospels together. In this section it is explained how at some point in the second century, multiple Gospels started being bound together in a single codex. Hill states that while there have been several discoveries which show the four canonical Gospels bound together, there has yet to be a discovery where a non-canonical Gospel was bound together with one of the four Gospels (Hill, p. 116-117). While he does not say that only scriptural writings are bound in codex form, he does say that only the four canonical Gospels are found only in codex form, while some of the other Gospels were also found in scroll form. The explanation that the owners of these scrolls would not have viewed them as Scripture is helpful for his argument (Hill, pp. 27-28). The explanation of how writings considered authoritative as Scripture were mostly only found in the larger codices, which would have been suitable for public reading, as well as numbers cited from the writings of Clement were also helpful in establishing his case.

Throughout the book, church history and textual criticism are woven together in a captivating fashion. Hill does an exceptional job in attempting to defend Irenaus, who is not always easy to defend, and is not popular with many modern scholars. The manner in which Hill used the works of Irenaus’s contemporaries was most helpful in answering his thesis. Although the evidence presented in the first part of the book is very convincing and clear, in the second half, Hill’s arguments seem to become more abstract and speculative. One example of this is the section dealing with the work of Justin Martyr. Justin complicated matters by not specifically naming the Gospels to which he is referring as he writes, making Hill’s task more difficult and makes his arguments seem less cut and dry (Hill, p. 126). Although there is not as much evidence to work with, Hill does an admirable job in presenting his arguments and it was helpful for the reader to see how several historical figures from both inside and outside of the church viewed the Gospel collection.

Throughout the book, Hill tackles some very technical details. Although he is covering a vast array of historical details, he writes in such a way that the reader does not get bogged down. Hill’s style is engaging and easy to follow. Although the subject is academic in nature, this book could be easily accessible to a more popular audience with an interest in learning about how the New Testament canon came to be formed. The book is an excellent resource, and is worthwhile to recommend to anyone with a desire to dig deeper into the history of the church, the establishment of the canon or learn more about textual criticism in general.